Posts Tagged ‘Sumatra’


The boys jumped off the massive ferry into the water below and were swimming for money. People threw a coin and there was a big frenzy of splashing as they fought for it. I would have liked to jump off the ferry into the cool waters below. I don’t know if I could have got back on the ferry, though.

On the boat to Java

On the boat to Java

Today we had a tailwind, and everything was easy. Before we knew it, we were blown to the port on Sumatra with boats to Java, and that is just where we went. Jakarta is getting near.


Today we had an in depth discussion about mosquito control – or the lack thereof. Thanks to Clement’s sweet blood, I was spared by the mosquitos last night. The mosquitos couldn’t survive the constant rain, though, today. We survived, but only in the form of drowned rats.

Invited for lunch

Invited for lunch

The Indonesian people seem to be rather unworried about mosquitos. The toilets and showers are arranged to form an optimized mosquito breeding ground. In a little outhouse, the squat toilet is next to a small reservoir of water – like a deep bath made of concrete. A little bucket or scoop floats on the water which is used to flush the toilet or to throw water over yourself as a shower. The water is still, and there is a guarantee of juicy, ripe, naked flesh for any inhabitant mosquitos.
In Thailand and Malaysia there were fans everywhere, which can be used when sleeping to blow the mosquitos away. In Indonesia, there are no fans, and no mosquito nets. Instead, if people are worried about the mosquitos at all, they sleep under a blanket, also covering their face. If I were to attempt this, I would drown from my own sweat. People think that our mosquito net is cute, and chuckle a bit.

The high pass today was not too steep (compared to what we have already done on Sumatra), and the descent was perfect – not too steep, and straight. We’re sleeping in a truckie restaurant, ready for our (hopefully) last day on Sumatra tomorrow.


‘Duku. How much you pay?’
We told him.
‘Come. You can have gratis.’
I followed into the forest, and watched as the boy bolted up the verticle tree, laughing at my amazement, his sisters giggling at the bottom.

Picking duku

Picking duku

I would like to thank flat tyre number one for this experience. Being forced to stop at places you would otherwise zoom through is good sometimes. Flat tyre number two was a bit uneventful, though.

Then the road decided to do a West Sumatra on us, and started an incredibly steep climb. I have been spoilt with the number of food stalls on the way, and consequently don’t take too much extra food. Today I ran out of energy, and almost out of food.

The road climbed and climbed and I got slower and slower. Clement had stopped and was waiting for me. I wolfed down my peanut brittle that was in some deep recess of my bag, and a bag of peanuts. It was lovely to feel the energy return into my body, and my perceptions broaden from the narrow spectrum of suffering to hear the crickets chirping and monkeys hooting in the vibrant forest around me.

The road continued climbing and once again I was out of energy, but with no food this time. Luckily we passed the first shop for ages, and I roared in like a ravenous tiger and breathed down a packet of biscuits, two fried noodles with egg, and a big vat of rice. In this time Clement fixed a broken brake cable. We could then continue.

We find ourselves staying in an abandoned school with a guy fixing watches in a small room.

Watch maker

Watch maker


The 10 year-old kid lit another cigarette, his siblings were lying next to him on the mats watching the never-ending television. Outside, visible through the open wall the teenagers were playing pool. It was midnight.
‘Shall we bring the bikes in yet?’ I ask from my corner of the mat, Clement next to me with a blanket over his eyes.
‘Another three hours.’
Last night was a haze of thriller television music, snooker, laughing and.. haze. And this is how the whole family lives – every night.

Our bedroom

Our bedroom

Today I left Clement not knowing if we would meet up again before Jakarta. He needed a new hub and was taking a lift to the next town 65km away. All went perfectly. They had a hub, and it was all fitted just before I arrived by bike. Before that, I traversed some very hilly and beautiful terrain, past mountains and beautiful beaches.

Mountain view

Mountain view

Beach

Beach

Beach

Beach

I like our camping place tonight. My hammock is slung between two palm trees, looking out over the beach, the waves crashing on the shore. And the best thing. We are here alone. All this ‘Hello Mister’ attention has been a bit much. And there is no light above our heads to keep us awake. Bliss.


Today we were going to eat the kilometres. Today Clement’s back wheel caused more problems which saw us spend 3 hours in a little bike workshop, and, 20km later, limp uphill to a little shop to comtemplate further steps.

Mechanic

Mechanic

The eating of kilometres never really got started. We stopped after 10km to eat and tighten Clement’s back wheel that was wobbling. Then, leaving the village, the problem got worse. A few new inner-hub parts and 3 hours later, we left, only to experience the problems return when the road started climbing what seemed like a cliffface. Tomorrow our paths will part for now. Clement will hitch a ride to the next big town, and possibly 400km to the next big city. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for him.


We stood there in the sun, next to the little hut on the beach, munching our 5th kilogram of duku (a tropical fruit) when there was cry. People were running for cover. Just 10 metres away it was pouring with rain. I wheeled my bike under cover, and then it started. The rain boundary was abrupt, and now it was over us – it was raining cats and dogs.

Beach

Beach

We visited our host, Mr. Black’s school in the town of Manna. My goodness, the kids were excited. One asked if they could take a selfie. When we said yes, they all screamed and stormed to the front in a tsunami of smart phones. I can’t overstress the volume of the initial burst of screaming. It blew me away. We are not super stars, but in the eyes of these kids we were.

The kids

The kids

We find ourselves tonight in a military base camping on the floor. It is very peaceful and relaxing after a hot day cycling, eating, swimming and surfing.


‘What do the people do in your village,’ Ad asked Clement. Clement lived in a little village in France near the Swiss border.
‘Do the peasants around the village have enough to eat?’
‘Things are so much better here in Indonesia since the palm oil plantations. People have jobs, and people have enough to eat. The plantations are good!’

Cycling in the palm plantations

Cycling in the palm plantations

We are often asked how much we earn and how much the bikes are worth. The amounts seem ridiculous here. I now say my bike is one tenth of the true price, and I am still met with comments of how expensive it is. Prices are different in the west, and so is life in general. Today we were invited to stay with the English teacher of the local school. His English was excellent, and we could have in-depth conversations, which led to interesting questions and interesting perspectives. For westerners, of course everyone in the village has enough to eat. Also, for westeners, palm plantations are evil – for the environment and concentration of wealth amongst the wealthy. The forests of Europe were cut down many years ago, so the evil from that has passed.

Today we passed the stretch of road for fruit sellers. Everyone was selling exactly the same fruit. Then, ten kilometres down the road, we passed the stretch of road of people selling four different kinds of fried food – and nothing else. No fruit sellers here. This seems quite a common thing. A few days ago we passed stretches of road with people selling big fluffy toys. A mixture of sellers with varying wares seems quite unheard-of here.

Fried food sellers

Fried food sellers

While at the stretch for fried food sellers, Clement realised that someone had stolen almost a million rupiah from his wallet (about 50 euros). We spent a long time thinking back to when it could have happened. After all this thought, we were none-the-wiser. Such an unexpected and atypical thing for Indonesia.

After an initial stretch this morning along a soft sandy path through the palm plantations, we returned to the road on the edge of the mountains that twisted and turned, constantly rising and falling. We contemplated the different kinds of road: mountain roads are very steep, but have amazing views, and are cooler, being at higher altitude. Roads back from the coast are hot and constantly up and down, but have a good road surface. Roads along the coast are straight and flat, but have a crap road surface. Then, if a road is flat, straight and has a good road surface, there is lots of traffic. A mixture of roads is the key!